Book List of the Week

Book List of the Week: Temple St. Clair

Travels and alchemy

By Steve Kroeter January 6, 2014
Temple St. Clair, Jewelry Designer (New York)
View Temple St. Clair’s Book List

A former student of Italian literature and art history and an inveterate traveler, Temple St. Clair discovered jewelry design by collaborating with master artisans in Italy to create unique pieces featuring precious metals and gemstones. These strands weave among the books St. Clair—a 2011 recipient of the Hall of Fame award from the Accessories Council for Excellence, recognized for her rock-crystal amulets and use of colored gems —chose for her Designers & Books book list. “Books relate to different phases of my life and different parts of me—the child, the student, the traveler, the scientist, the designer, the artist, the mother, the explorer. I have eclectic tastes in books, as in other art forms, from the classical to the contemporary,” she writes in the introduction to her list.

Among the classics on St. Clair’s list are The Histories by Herodotus (“This volume has accompanied me on many trips through Greece and the ancient sites along the Turkish coast”) and Boccaccio’s Decameron (“my favorite story comes from the fifth day in the Decameron that entertains the theme of true love”). About Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, which she says she has “reread about once per decade since the first time I read it in my twenties,” she observes, “I love the descriptions of the clothes and jewels—Anna’s hands, the social order depicted, from the peasants to the aristocracy.”

Cover of Alchemy: A Passion for Jewels by Temple St. Clair, 2008 (Harper Design)

Reflecting her travels that have taken her to the Galapagos Islands and Sri Lanka, among many other places, as well as her keen interest in nature, St. Clair cites books such as Jonathan Weiner’s The Beak of the Finch, Michael Ondaatje’s Running in the Family, Helen Scales’s Poseidon’s Steed (about the evolution of the seahorse), and Konrad Lorenz’s King Solomon’s Ring. She comments on Lorenz’s book, “Despite being an acclaimed Nobel prize-winning scientist, Lorenz still communicates boyish marvel while conveying insights into animals.”  

Other book selections touch on St. Clair’s fascination with process. There is Witold Rybczynski’s Home: A Short History of an Idea. St. Clair notes, “I read this while my husband and I were renovating . .  Some of the functionality of our home—the kitchen, for example—is based on Rybczynski’s theories: our kitchen is like a workshop with all its tools exposed instead of a gleaming sterile environment that looks like it’s never used.” And about Walter Isaacson’s Steve Jobs, a book that several Designers & Books contributors have been drawn to, she says, “I found the story of Jobs completely inspiring, especially his defiant refusal to compromise on design and quality.”

Temple St. Clair is also an author. Her book Alchemy: A Passion for Jewels, published in 2008 (Harper Design), details her design influences, process, and approach.

View Temple St. Clair’s Book List.

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